On this past New Year’s Eve an old friend from college made a generous donation to my Life Fund of $100. After thanking her profusely she told me she made the donation in a way of thanks to me. Confused, I asked why on earth she felt the need to thank me when she was the one who had made a donation. Her answer has attributed to many hours of contemplation and wonderment, that of which I’m sharing today.
Over the past few years I’ve gotten used to to people telling me that my illness and unique situation has made them see the ‘good in life’. Which is understandable, I guess. It’s human nature to feel thankful for what we have when seeing the suffering or hardships of others. Personally, I always feel grateful for having a roof over my head and food on the table when I cross paths with a homeless person. Or enjoying all the colors of the world when I see someone using a cane for blindness. Before I was ill I felt grateful for my healthy disposition when I saw someone less fortunate than myself.
Even now, I feel like I have a lot more sympathy for people like me, than I did in the people. To be honest, I used to be really judgmental of hugely fat and or obese people I saw on the street or bus. I always jumped right to the conclusion that their weight must be due to lack of control with food and binge eating. But now I know that many people can’t help their weight if it’s attributed to a medical reason. They could have diabetes or gained steroid weight like I had. There are many medical issues that can contribute to excessive weight gain.
Now, obviously not everyone who is overweight has a medical problem. Yes, there clearly are many people who eat bad food, and a lot of it. Especially in Hawaii. The point is I’m not mean in my head when I pass someone by who’s fighting their weight like I am. Though I still have no sympathy for those people you see in Wal-Mart using the motorized carts while stuffing their face with a giant bag of Lays. I mean come on, you’re just asking for someone to discreetly snap pics of you on their iPhones and upload you to People of Walmart at that point. Have some dignity.
My point, before my mini-rant, is that being ill has broadened my mind. I too see the finer things in life, and appreciate the little things a lot more now. Like my friend Liz, who told me that normally in the past when she’s had to work late and miss spending time with her husband she has been bitter. But upon thinking about me and my struggles she decided that instead of being upset, she would be grateful. Grateful to have a great job with fair employers that treat her well. Grateful to have wonderful husband who loves and adores her. Grateful to be happy and healthy. So on that night, instead of complaining about working late, she decided to be happy that she got paid double for her excellent work ethic and in turn made a donation to my Life Fund as a way of thanks, for being her “unofficial life coach”. The whole thing made me tear up a bit to be honest.
Besides accepting such a huge compliment as well as a lovely donation, the whole ordeal has really made me think. Mostly about how our life experiences change us. My disease, while being a big bummer for me, seems to help a lot of my friends and family gain a lot of healthy perspective. And that in turn makes me happy that I can contribute in some way to help others. Just like how this blog has helped others dealing with RA or other chronic illnesses see other perspectives than their own.
For two years now I’ve been seeing a Pain Management Psychologist, (who is basically a therapist that knows extensive information about medications and how people deal with their pain). He has helped me immensely, not only with my pain, but also how I perceive my disease and the people around me. Each week we discuss mortality, the progression of my disease, the people in my life, and how I’m living day to day. He has helped me find hobbies while not working, reminded me to keep active, and kept me grounded. In a way he has been a life coach.
But now I see that while people can help us on our journey, we also need to learn to help ourselves. And I actually think we already are. In everything we do. Sure others can motivate us in the right direction, but we are the ones making the decisions to change. I may have motivated Liz to feel grateful for her healthy life, but it is she who made the decision to be a supportive friend, and a loving wife. My therapist may motivate me to see the positive parts of my life, but I am the one who chooses to live with the positivity moving forward.
So at the end of the day, while we all have people in our life that drive us to do good, and to be good… We are the ones that choose to follow through.
We are our own life coaches.
And we are winning.